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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — For weeks we’ve been looking into a level of divisiveness among New Hanover County Commissioners. County insiders and simple observation have told us Commissioner Brian Berger has become increasingly frustrated with fellow commissioners and vice versa.

This week a series of e-mails among commissioners show just how high that frustration has grown. Today Berger showed his relationship with one commissioner is especially strained.

In his short time on the New Hanover County Commission Berger has certainly made his mark; much of it controversial. He’s been reluctant to sit down and talk with us about much of that.

So after his latest controversy involving an e-mail tirade launched at county staff and fellow commissioners, News Director Scott Pickey and News Content Manager Kevin Wuzzardo decided they would go to Berger.

Berger joined hundreds of other people at a Smart Start benefit breakfast at UNCW Wednesday morning. As he made an early exit, we asked to talk, and he agreed.

First we asked about why he’s so passionate about the issue the county calls non-attainment – the topic he wants information about but feels county staff is stonewalling him on. Berger launched into a lengthy response to that and other questions.

But it didn’t take long to get to what seems to be the heart of his frustrations.

"Being in Washington, DC, a couple weeks ago, I was able to accomplish more in the morning than my colleague Rick Catlin had been able to accomplish in the weeks preceding that trip to DC," Berger said.

In the e-mail to county staff Monday, he demanded information he’d requested a week earlier. Berger said Commissioner Catlin, an environmental engineer using his expertise to help with the pollution issue, had scheduled "secret" meetings. Because too many commissioners at a meeting creates a quorum and a public meeting under law, Berger acknowledged not everyone could attend. Catlin told us when he scheduled meetings with experts, he invited Commission Chair Jonathan Barfield or a commissioner of Barfield’s choice.

Thursday Berger tried to backtrack.

"Secret isn’t necessarily the word," Berger said. "But when you have a meeting, and you don’t tell your colleagues about it and you refuse to answer questions…"

We asked Berger if he had ever met with a member of county staff or another commissioner without everybody else being there.

"Absolutely," he said.

Berger admitted he wished he could retract his rambling, ranting e-mail that may give readers a reason to question his mental state.

"It does read like a manifesto, and it is certainly conducive to to creating the perception that I’m a crazy person, ’cause it’s typically crazy people that write manifestoes, but I don’t live in a log cabin in the woods in Montana," Berger said.

Throughout the nearly 30-minute interview, Berger both lauded Catlin and chastised him.

Watch our entire interview with Brian Berger

Berger has routinely called out the rest of the commission for trying to conduct "business as usual," saying that he won’t play by old rules.

Throughout his run for office and his short time in office, there have been both public and private questions about who is behind Berger.

When we asked Berger about how he prepares for County Commission meetings, he started talking about notes he says another commissioner stole from his desk in the commission chambers. We happened to have a copy of the notes, which seem to show someone else giving berger directions on what points to discuss and even how to vote, though Berger claims how he voted varies in some ways from the sheet of notes. (We have attached Berger’s notes in their entirety)

Berger was unwilling to tell us who gave him those directions.

"It’s from myself," he said. "It’s cut and pasted from other sources."

Pickey asked, "But who’s telling you what to do?"

Berger answered, "I make my own decisions."

Berger went on to imply Catlin stole the notes, but danced around the issue.

"Did Rick Catlin steal this from you?" Pickey asked.

Berger answered, "You’d have to ask him that."
We did.

"No," Catlin said. "I didn’t know he had notes until the reporter called me and asked me about it."

We let Catlin watch our interview with Berger and asked him for his reaction.

"I don’t really understand his perspective on things, and I don’t really know how to respond. I’m a little worried about him," Catlin said.

Catlin says he’s concerned that Berger believes in a conspiracy against him, which makes it difficult to communicate with the commissioner.

He said while the media, including WWAY, have helped stir up the tensions between Berger and the other commissioners it is  a very serious issue.

"In my personal opinion, I think it’s a very significant problem," Catlin said. "And I think we need to work very hard to try to resolve it. We owe it to the citizens of New Hanover County to try to resolve this problem."

Catlin isn’t alone. Other county leaders have told WWAY they have concerns with Berger and his ability to effectively be part of the County Commission.

Berger has regularly called for transparency, yet he himself has been far from transparent. As far back as the run-off he won against incumbent Bill Caster last summer, we and others have tried to find out more about the man, candidate and now elected leader, including what he does for a living. Berger has routinely said only that he is a consultant for a number of things, but never gives specifics as to what.

As Berger grew angry with our questions Wednesday and stormed off, he still would not answer that basic question.

"You want transparency from everybody else, but you won’t be transparent yourself," Wuzzardo said.

Berger answered, "You won’t find anyone more transparent than me."

"Then what do you do? " Wuzzardo asked. "Who do you represent? What do you consult on? What do you consult on, brian? What are you a consultant for? Who do you work for?"

Berger said he had a meeting and walked away.



Comment on this Story

  • Guest333

    To Wilm Watcher….Aw come’on now, don’t get your shirt all wrinkled. Jonathan has enough ironing!!
    Seriously now, if Brian really and truly “works with many out-of-state private firms on marketing communications and strategy”, why has it been so difficult for BRIAN to COMMUNICATE what he does, when he was questioned? Seems that anyone who does what YOU say he does for a living would be quite pleased with how IMPORTANT his job is and how successful he MUST be! Why would he avoid such a question?

    I have NEVER had any difficulty telling ANYONE what I do for a living, have you? And if so, WHY? Don’t you know what you do, did you forget, are you embarrassed, or is it a fabrication made up by a vast right wing conspirator? Hilliary, ah, remember those days of ire?

    WWAY questioned WHO was behind his notes/questions… I THINK IT MUST BE YOU! THAT IS THE SCANDAL! You seem to know how to SPEAK for HIM a whole LOT better than he speaks for himself.
    What’s up with THAT???
    As a play on words….
    Inquiring minds want to know. As a truism, VOTING minds want to know, especially conservatives like me, who do NOT like the ANTICS associated with a new member of our County Govt. whom I have helped to become elected. QUIT GUIDING HIM, YOU are making him crazy nervous, he was afraid he lost “YOUR NOTES”. GEEZ! It’s time to Cut the Cord/

  • Straight Shooter

    It’s not been shown as of yet that Berger is capable of doing anything other than lip service and even that is difficult for him. He has made some claims but no details. He will not answer questions about himself. Our County Commissioners are in the most disarray that I have seen in the 20+ years I have been here. Is this the change you want?

  • Guest1118

    To Commonsenseconservative below. I agree completely with you. Brian is a breath of fresh air.

  • Guest401

    I believe that any normal person could have answered those questions in about half the time it took Mr. Berger. 27 minutes for only 8 min of answers?? In todays politics, perception is reality, Brian Berger comes off as an unintelligent, stammering, trainwreck. With multiple contradictions during that segment. I do agree that someone needs to break up the “good ole boy” politics that have been associated with New Hanover County, but we have to have a more credible voice than Brian Berger. I cant believe this is a representative of New Hanover County.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    I voted for Berger.

    Since then I have learned that he has poor judgment (shacking up with a married woman), doesn’t write a very good e-mail, and may not be very good at public speaking in the absence of a prepared speech.

    Guess what? Given the same circumstances, I’d vote for him again today. Am I the only one who remembers the choices in the runoff election: Berger or “Business as usual” Bill? Mister Rubber Stamp for the developers? The founding father of CFPUA?

    Berger can attend council meetings in his underwear, stop bathing, and start speaking in a phony French accent for all I care, as long as he keeps voting AGAINST projects that are not a function of government and waste taxpayers’ money.

    He’s a refreshing change to the Republican crooks who never met a 600-home development they didn’t like, and Democrat weasels who never met a tax they didn’t love.

  • Straight Shooter

    WilmWatcher are you so naive? Do you not want the truth. We all know what the other commissioner do for a living. We know nothing about Brian Berger. When asked, Berger should have gladly giving the information, the others have but Berger never does. What is he hiding? I’m glad we have one news organization in this area that is not afraid dig a little deeper to bring us pertinent information.
    Say what you want about past commissioners, do you ever recall anything being the fiasco that is now!

  • WWAY – your “reporting” has festered into something that no longer even resembles journalism. This vengeful op-ed style makes the National Enquirer look like the Holy Bible. Those notes, as has been reported already, and has long been put to bed, were written by Brian Berger. They read as if someone else wrote them, but such is the way he thinks. He writes to himself in this way. I guess that’s a “scandal” too – the way he prepares for meetings.

    Your comment about him not being transparent, and questioning his mental state is way out of line. As much as you would like to be, you are not a blog, or an op-ed column. You are supposed to be journalists; although your style of journalism is an insult to real journalists everywhere. Your crusade against Berger is pathetic, and stems from your childish reaction to him not inviting you to his press conference a while back. This is absolutely pathetic.

    As to the question of his employment, I don’t what is so hard to understand. He is a marketing consultant, who is self-employed. Catlin is self-employed. Thompson is self-employed. Barfield is self-employed. Why aren’t these “scandals”? Berger works with many out-of-state private firms on marketing communications and strategy. You phrase it as if there is something hidden here. You are desperately trying to incite outrage and a public backlash against him – because of your petulent, immature, personal vendetta.

    People are quickly realizing that WWAY is not a source of news, but underhanded dreck – and people are going to continue to avoid you and not agree to interviews, because they don’t view you as a serious and viable news outlet – and they don’t want to be crucified for what they had for dinner last Tuesday.

  • Mike R

    After hearing his interviews and reading his emails I can only draw one conclusion.. he is coloring in a coloring book. Good grief Charlie Brown why in the world did the Tea Party put this guy up for election… and what does he do for a living?? We must assume not much because no one in their right mind will hire him for anything important! I know 3 year olds that can speak in complete sentances better than him!

  • truthsquad

    This bozo would like us to focus on another commissioner’s mental state-I think we should focus on Catlin’s integrity and dealings over the years with the County. I’d be mad as hell too if Catlin failed to call me when I was meeting with senate and house staff on issues of importance to NHC. Catlin is the issue not Able, Berger and Curtis Wright. Catlin is a throwback to the kind of crap poltics where if you can not deal with the facts you smear people. His smugness and arrogance in dealing with most folks should be well known-so all of this should be no surprise

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